As this is my last proper blog post of 2011 - I will be wishing you a happy new year next week, but other than that I get a (well-earned) break between Christmas and New Year - I thought it would be a good chance to take a look back at some of the interesting stories (and blog posts) about Andalucia from this year.
March 2011: Tita Cervera's gift to Malaga, museum capital of Andalucia
In March, Malaga saw the opening of a major new art attraction: the Carmen Thyssen Museum. This showcases Spanish art from the famous collector's personal collection, mostly dating from the 19th century, and mostly scenes of Andalucia's cities and countryside.
April 2011: Charles and Camilla
In April, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall came to Seville for a brief visit - business and pleasure - as part of a tour of southern Europe and north Africa. The founder, owner and MD of andalucia.com, as a prominent Andalucian businessman, was naturally invited to the reception at the Alcazar, while yours truly went to the ladies' event - a flamenco performance at the Museo de Baile Flamenco, as requested by Camilla (the 21st-century equivalent of the ladies adjourning to the drawing room after dinner to play bridge and gossip, while the men stay to smoke cigars, drink port and talk business).
April 2011: Modern architecture comes to Seville
Also in April - spring is always crazy-busy in the Andalucian capital - the massively over-budget and behind-schedule Metropol Parasol project was finally ready (well, officially inaugurated - the museum and walkway didn't open till May). These six gigantic shades now boast a variety of restaurants and shops - including a tapas bar and a frozen yoghurt place on the ground floor, as well as a new-style self-service eaterie on the top deck, offering everything from ham and fritos to cocktails - which opened just a week or so ago. It was also the home to Seville's outpost of the Spanish "Democracy Now!" movement, which subsequently spread all around the world, including OWS (Occupy Wall Street) in New York.
June 2011: Solar power in the dark
On the eco front, June saw the inauguration of the first solar power plant which can produce power at night. The Gemasolar plant, in Fuentes de Andalucia (Seville), made news around the world for its revolutionary molten-salt system. Nothing makes me happier than reading about positive new - and, even better, cutting-edge technology - about Andalucia, in these challenging times.
June 2011: How one village in Malaga beat the recession: by going - and staying - blue
Also in June, the town of Juzcar in Malaga province was chosen by Sony Pictures to be paid to paint all its houses blue for the filming of The Smurfs movie, starring Salma Hayek, in June. But after seeing an exponential rise in tourism - from 300 to 80,000 - last week the 221 residents voted not to have their houses returned to their customary white. A smurf market has been set up in the village and smurf-themed weddings now take place. An unexpected way to boost one town's economy - and put a smile on the faces of its residents, and visitors.
September 2011: Ali G turns Seville into his latest movie character's kingdom
In September Plaza de Armas became Fedijah, the country of The Dictator, Sacha Baron-Cohen's latest fictional film protagonist. With gold Hummers, numerous beturbaned extras and national symbols appearing on vehicles, uniforms, gates and flags, one of Seville's most famous landmarks, previously used in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, took on a new identity.
October 2011: Wedding fever hits Seville
The Duquesa de Alba married her "toyboy" at her Seville palace in October, capturing the nation's hearts as she overcome fierce opposition from her family to the match, but not long after fell and hurt her back. Now she's on the mend, and appeared with none other than Tom Cruise at the Spanish launch of his latest MI movie in Madrid.
And to look forward to in 2012...
Creamfields Andalucia 2012's dates have just been announced: it will take place on 10-11 August; tickets went on sale today. Next year's event, held at the Circuito de Velocidad in Jerez de la Frontera, promises to have more extensive, and better maintained, facilities, such as showers, toilets and mobile phone charging, as well as the usual stellar line-up of international dance acts - past events have featured the likes of Massive Attack, The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, Saint Etienne, Fatboy Slim, Pet Shop Boys, Orbital and Faithless.
And I'm sure there will be plenty of other exciting events to enjoy next year. In the meantime, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas - eat, drink, relax and enjoy the time with your family, especially if you're an expat returning home at this special time of year to see your loved ones, like me. ¡Feliz Navidad!